Over 24 years ago I met a man named Mr. Rose who was a parishioner in the first parish to which I was assigned as a priest.  My guess was that he was about 45 years old but I never really knew for sure. I don’t think I ever learned his name until my second year in the parish but I had become familiar with his face almost as soon as I had arrived in the parish.  He came to Mass every Sunday and attended almost every parish activity by himself.  He sat in the middle of the center pew of the church, he wore one of two very similar looking suits every time I saw him, and although he was very polite I don’t know that I ever saw him engage any one in an actual conversation.  If I ever encountered him personally it was after Mass while I was greeting parishioners. He would simply nod as he went by.  He was intriguing because of his almost complete silence, his persistent presence and the sadness that always seemed to emanate from him.  I wondered if I was ever going to get to know him and his story; and then one day he called the parish office for an appointment and wanted to see me.  We met several times over the next few months.  He was a single man who worked at a grocery store. He explained that he had been feeling sad ever since his mother died and he did not know how to shake it.  At first I told him that it was very normal to feel sad after losing a parent and that at the very least it would probably take a full year before things would begin to feel somewhat normal again.  But he explained that it had been several years and he still felt pretty much the same way.  I asked him how long it was since his mother had passed and he said that it was now well over 10 years ago.  I have to say that this was very surprising to me.  Here was a middle aged man who had been talking to me as if his mother had died in the very recent past but now I realized that he had been in this state of malaise for over a decade and saw no way to ever change his life situation.  It was as if the life he had lived had simply been dealt to him and that he had no control or even influence over it.  He was an only child who had lived in the same house from the time he was born and was now living there by himself since his mother’s death.  I saw, however, that he did want to rise above his sadness, and although, I did not know the answer, I hoped very much that I could help him.  Then finally at one of our meetings I asked him the following question.  “Mr. Rose,” I said, “have you ever done anything for anyone?”  He kind of looked a bit puzzled at first, as if he wondered what my question had to do with his situation, but after a bit of a pause he said that he really could not remember any time that he extended himself to anyone.  I explained to him that helping other people always tended to lift my spirits and I thought maybe it would help him as well.  The rest, as they say is history. Mr. Rose agreed to help out at a local soup kitchen and became a regular there.  Eventually he became very involved in the parish, and especially in any service activities. He became much more socially outgoing and his spirits rose almost exponentially.  He wrote to me a couple years after I had been transferred and thanked me for the time I had shared with him and that he had come to see my question as an “epiphany,” that literally brought him to new life.  You know what, folks?  I think Mr. Rose’s epiphany can be an epiphany for each of us.  If we ever feel like we are in a rut that we can’t get out of, there is nothing like asking ourselves what we can do for others to pick ourselves up.  Isn’t that what the three wise men did?  They took themselves out of their own safe little comfort zones and ended up walking differently for the rest of their lives.  That’s what happened with Mr. Rose.  He brought himself to new life. I’m thinkin’ it could happen to us too.

AuthorCathy Remick